Health IT, Startups

Here are the next big steps for Israel-U.S. digital health collaboration

Luminox told MedCity News it is in talks to add more strategic partners across pharma, retail, tech and wellness in addition to Johns Hopkins.

Luminox has big plans for Israeli digital health startups and its partner Johns Hopkins is just one part of it.

Dr. Yossi Bahagon, the CEO of the digital health hub, said he is in talks to add more strategic partners across pharma, retail, tech and wellness. It will also have a $30 million to $50 million fund backed by private and corporate investors to back early stage companies — he expects the first close before year’s end.

In a phone interview, Bahagon said the accelerator will essentially straddle the U.S. and Israel. It will not only support the startups it currently works with such as Medisafe, Tyto and Myndlift, but will also help create new ones according to the needs identified by strategic partners. He said the fund would invest in roughly 10 to 15 digital health businesses.

A key part of the new group’s plan will involve clinical validation for the digital health tools to get beyond the hype and ensure the early stage companies not only have innovative products but also add value.

“The companies that build their evidence today will be the stars of tomorrow,” Bahagon said. “I don’t see reimbursement happening on a large-scale without evidence.”

Bahagon sees the function of the digital health hub as an active participant in the companies in its portfolio, not just as a mentor or adviser. He is also a co-founder of Sweetch — a digital health company targeting diabetes. On top of his work at Luminox, Bahagon also likes to keep active as a family physician.

“I see it as a crucial element in my ability to filter startups and really understand their innovation,” he said. “In the meeting between a physician and patient, there are magical moments and you must have this insight to see what value startups bring.”

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Luminox begins working with companies at the pre-seed or seed stage of their development. Among the businesses in Luminox’s portfolio,  TytoCare has received a lot of attention. It raised $11 million in a Series B round led by Cambia Health Solutions. Its handheld diagnostic device is designed to be used to support telemedicine and guide non-medical professionals through an exam of a patient’s mouth, throat, eyes, heart sounds, lung sounds, temperature, skin and ears. The idea is that a doctor could view the high-resolution digital images and data collected by the device. OrbiMed Advisors, Walgreens, Fosun Pharma and LionBird are among the company’s backers.

A couple of the companies focus on behavioral health. Lifegraph, for example, seeks to help psychiatrists track the mental health of their patients by passively collecting data from their smartphones to identify signs of deterioration — it sounds a lot like Ginger.io. Another, Myndlift, uses neurofeedback to help people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder concentrate. Myndlift has finalized a pre-seed round and will soon start clinical validation in the U.S. market, according to Bahagon.

Using brainwaves to help focus attention is an area where InteraXon, the company behind Muse, has carved a niche. But so far, the Canadian company has targeted recreational use for its wearable headbands and so far has avoided talking in any great depth about clinical applications for its product.

Although Luminox is still in the process of building its Israel-U.S. collaboration, it will be closely watched because it will indicate not only whether this new funding model can succeed, but it could also indicate how big a digital heath role Israeli startups  will play in the U.S. healthcare market.